As many already know, yesterday was International Women’s Day, and The Matinee ’22 v. 032 features some of the finest female singer-songwriters and female-fronted bands. The nine songs are further evidence as to why we think women are making the best, most creative, and powerful music today.
Sunflower Bean – “Roll the Dice” (Brooklyn, USA)
RIYL: Chastity Belt, Yves Tumor, YONAKA
For most of their career, Sunflower Bean have been revivalists, bringing the music of the ’70s and ’80s to the 2010s and now the 2020s. When they shared “Who Put You Up to This” last month, Julia Cumming (she/her) (vocals, guitar, bass), Nick Kivlen (he/him) (guitar, bass), and Olive Faber (she/they) (drums) transported themselves to the present. Not only have they gone contemporary, but they also have gotten harder, edgier, and more Goth-like. This version of Sunflower Bean is less flowery and much more assertive. In addition, they’re taking a broader perspective in their songwriting, at least that’s what “Roll The Dice” indicates.
This scorching rocker is the Brooklyn-based trio’s at their heaviest and their most political. Guitars growl, a synth sputters, and the rhythms pound with the intensity of one desperate person’s heaving heart. Cumming shares the vocal chores with Kivlen, and together they address how life in America is now a zero-sum game. “Nothing in this life is really free”, they holler right from the start. They then tackle the role of the church, noting that “Faith is child’s play, chance is my religion”. At the heart of America’s problems, though, is capitalism.
“Win big, win lose, that’s just how the game works
In this city money talks, that’s just how the world works”
Sunflower Bean’s new album, Headful of Sugar, is out May 6th on Mom + Pop Music. Links to purchase the album and tickets to the trio’s forthcoming tour are available here. The LP can also be picked up on Bandcamp.
Automatic – “New Beginning” (Los Angeles, USA)
RIYL: U.S. Girls, Operators, The Wants
In Brooklyn, Nation of Language have revitalized ’80s synth-pop and become one of the great DIY success stories of the century. They also are arguably the best band on the planet, which could also be said of Automatic. The trio comprised of Izzy Glaudini (synths, lead vocals), Lola Dompé (drums, vocals) and Halle Saxon (bass, vocals) are like NoL’s West Coast cousins, making krautrock, new wave, and synth-pop not just cool again but they’re reimaging it. Their music, as such, is not just nostalgic but also fresh, which makes their sophomore album, Excess, one we anxiously wait to listen in whole. Its first single only raises expectations.
Get ready for your all your movable body parts to be jerking in all directions when hearing “New Beginning”. A fabulous, stuttering rhythm section drives the track, creating the energy and restrained urgency in the track. Occasionally, a synth surges to add some spark to the underground West Berlin vibe. As we bop around to the krautorock and new wave theatrics, Glaudini calmly sings about the oncoming apocalypse. Inspired by the Swedish sci-fi film Aniara, Glaudini’s voice is intentionally mechanical, mimicking the artificial intelligence that offers humanity the false hope of finding life and a livable planet beyond the stars.
“Now we look for safety, there’s only empty space
The humans have a breakdown and no hope is on the way
Well, we can never know for certain how it came to this
Maybe there is a new world out there, we can do it all again”
Leah Dunn – “Wrong Place” (New York and San Francisco, USA)
RIYL: Snail Mail, Waxahatchee, Alex Lahey
The term student-athlete is as American as apple pie in the sports-hungry country. But what about student-artist? This phrase does not get bandied about because artists do not bring the millions of dollars to colleges and universities that sports do. It’s a shame because if the US collegiate system celebrated its musicians, painters, sculptors, writers, poets, and filmmakers like it did its athletes, maybe artists wouldn’t struggle to make a living after graduating and society would be much richer. We would get to follow young artists throughout their careers and discover more talented individuals like Leah Dunn .
With two EPs to her credit, both released before she stepped into the halls of New York University’s Clive Institute of Recorded Music, Dunn is well-positioned to be the next great American singer-songwriter, following in the footsteps of Sharon Van Etten, Lucy Dacus, Snail Mail, Waxahatchee, and Phoebe Bridgers. As proof, take a listen to “Wrong Place”.
Sun-kissed notes flicker across this summertime-slice of indie pop-rock. It is as cool as a Pacific Ocean breeze yet swelters like the glistening sun in July. While the drums rumble and the guitar moves from groovy to grumbling, Dunn shares a tale of feeling like a stranger in a new place, where she does not share the same interests as others and everything feels foreign. Her songwriting is filled with great vignettes, including being abandoned by her new “friends”.
“Baby can you help me make this end
These girls don’t understand the meaning of a friend
Left me at the table watching their shit
Now I’m too tired to babysit
They finished the brandy, threw up in the alley, and and now they’re getting high
Oh daddy you know I love Saint Patty’s but I’m the one who drives”
Head to Bandcamp to listen to more songs from this star in the making.
Wombo – “Below the House” (Louisville, USA)
RIYL: Rubblebucket + Deerhoof + Hoops
A year ago, Wombo released the outstanding Keesh Mountain EP, which was highly unpredictable. It blended the art-rock quirkiness of David Byrne with the twisting, off-kilter unpredictability of Deerhoof. The Louisville-based trio’s creativity made the record one of very favorite mini-albums of the year. If you missed out on discovering Sydney Chadwick (vocals/bass), Cameron Lowe (guitar), and Joel Taylor’s (drums) brilliance, they offer a second chance to learn why they have emerged as critical darlings within the indie scene.
Be forewarned, “Below the House” is not your standard track. It is a mélange of genres, constantly shifting and offering surprises in the process. It commences innocently enough with a math-pop arrangement. Chadwick’s wooden almost mechanical vocal floats above the chiming guitar and the jazz-like percussion. She sounds like her head is in a haze and it is, as she recounts a trippy dream she’s had. Part John Carpenter horror story, part Wes Anderson-WTF-just-happened surrealism, she shares the things she sees (or thinks she sees) lurking under the floorboards. Her voice, however, is without fear, as she summons the courage of Ellen Ripley.
And just as the truth is about to be revealed, Wombo scorch the atmosphere. Lowe’s guitar surges. Taylor, too, goes a little ballistic, delivering military-like drum rolls. Does this mean Chadwick has met her doom or has her tormentors? We wouldn’t bet against Chadwick and her legion of Lowe and Taylor.
The single is out on Fire Talk Records.
Jenny Hval – “Freedom” (Oslo, Norway)
RIYL: Agnes Obel, Weyes Blood, Half Waif
For nearly a decade, democracy has been fiercely attacked. This situation is not only happening in the US but around the globe, as wannabe autocrats and their cronies attempt to tighten their grip on power at the expense of the people they were elected to serve. In some cases, as we see now, the attacks are overt. Given the current state of affairs, Jenny Hval‘s newest single becomes even more relevant.
While the song is beautifully lush and serene, it is powerful. With what sounds like a harpsichord delicately strumming in the background supported by a fine sheen of synth, Hval softly sings about “Freedom” – or what we knew as freedom. “I want to live in a democracy / I want to live in a democracy / Somewhere where art is free / Not that it ever was”, she sings at the start. She then notes that the only time we were truly free is when we are born, but after that freedom and democracy are just fleeting ideals that people will be chasing after until the end of time.
“Out there is ‘the world’
Where you’re threatening the lives
Of ‘fragile individuals’ when you stir in the mud
Look to the birds
To the crowds that have dispersed
In the wounded air that we call ‘freedom'”
Prescient is Hval, who continues to find new ways to astound.
Her new album, Classic Objects, is out in two days – Friday, March 11th to be precise – on 4AD. Pre-orders available here. It should be another outstanding compilation from one of music’s most fearless artists.
Aldous Harding – “Fever” (Lyttleton, New Zealand)
RIYL: Aldous Harding
If you’ve had the privilege of watching Aldous Harding perform live, one of her most remarkable traits is how she can quickly transform into a different character between songs. So when she’s dressed like a clown, as she was in the video for 2019’s “Zoo Eyes”, adorning a massive hat on “The Barrel”, or dressed in bright red while sitting alone on a mountaintop as she was on “Fixture Picture”, the NZ-born singer-songwriter is revealing her made sides and shades. In some instances, like on the “Lawn”, which is the first single from her forthcoming new album, Warm Chris, she becomes multiple characters. Harding’s multifaceted nature, which is also replicated in the melodies and stories she crafts, makes her one of the most interesting and gifted artists of our lifetime. As further evidence to support this claim, she shares “Fever”.
Harding’s latest single might be her simplest arrangement since her self-titled debut (2014), but what’s simple for her is complex for most. A diligent piano melody merges with light bellows of horns, offering a pleasant and playful 1930s county fair vibe. And true to form, Harding reveals many sides to herself in the video, where she is dressed in multiple outfits to reflect her surroundings and state of mind. While the track would make a great companion for a stroll in the park, she recounts a fling that flickers in the end. While the storyline is a familiar one, it’s never been told as poetically and vividly as Harding has done.
“Eleven, 11 days in the heat of the city
Together, I had stars coming all around me
And you let, let me in where a mother’d invested
I still stare at you in the dark
Looking for that thrill in the nothing
All my favourite places are bars
Lover, don’t you run at the easy part now
The weather, opened up like a birthday card
And we forget one will fry if the other’s connected”
Jo Schornikow – “Lose Yr Love” (Nashville, USA via Melbourne, Australia)
RIYL: The Weather Station, Land of Talk, Feist
From the singles she’s released so far, Jo Schornikow’s upcoming record, Altar, is shaping up to be a wonderful follow-up to her 2019 stunner, Secret Weapon. Last month, Schornikow released the nostalgic folk track, “Visions”. This week Schornikow shares the album’s opening track, “Lose Yr Love”.
Schornikow describes “Lose Yr Love” as “a quick, awful spiral”. That sentiment is echoed in the song’s nostalgic tone. While it’s rooted in sadness and loss, the song’s upbeat nature gives it so much color. All the melancholy is washed away in the track’s final moments as playful harmonies repeat the title before it all fades out. Schornikow’s voice is as inviting as ever, especially when paired with the song’s lush keyboards and flangered guitar parts. It’s a fantastic pop-folk song and a great record opener, and a perfect introduction to the music of Jo Schornikow.
“Take me to last night
When in my arms you slept, up in my arms
I didn’t need the signs;
Didn’t need you on the edge of the water
How’s an ocean part- just split in two?
Guess there’s more to this than I ever knew
To the ones keeping the dream alive;
To the shipwright and the polar ice“
Oceanator – “Stuck” (Brooklyn, USA)
RIYL: Slothrust, False Advertising, Bikini Kill
Oceanator, the project of Elise Okusami, impressed us in 2020 with Things I Never Said. It was a record full of diverse music, creativity, and just some fantastic rock songs. Earlier this year, Okusami released another blast of a rocker with ““Bad Brain Daze”, which channeled some ska and punk influences, complete with a badass sax solo from Jeff Rosenstock.
On “Stuck”, Oceanator draws more from grunge and metal influences. Heavy guitar chords crash through the song’s early moments before it’s just Okusami’s voice over bass and drums. Palm muted, distorted guitar chugs underneath just waiting for the song to explode again. And does it ever. The ending is huge, loud, and absolutely incredible. It builds as Okusami repeats, “I’ve gotta gotta get out!”, before it gets even heavier with some double bass drums and a definitive big rock ending. It’s yet another example of the creativity and diverse sounds of Oceanator. It’s yet another new sound from them, and it kicks a ton of ass.
Sadurn – “Golden Arm” (Philadelphia, USA)
RIYL: Big Thief, Adrianne Lenker, Squirrel Flower
When we heard “Snake” a month ago, we were introduced to an artist who is a tour-de-force. While Genevieve DeGroot’s music is rooted in folk and melancholic Americana, their power lies in the gripping melodies and impeccable songwriting. Their music is one that time after time just crushes one soul and, in the process, leaves a lasting impression. DeGroot, however, may have written their most striking and unforgettable song in “Golden Arm”.
“Golden Arm” is one of those rare songs that speaks for itself. The minimalist folk approach is absolutely breathtaking, and each strike of the electric guitar and every soft patter of the drums are paralyzing. DeGroot’s pain-stricken yet stunning voice, however, is the scene stealer. DeGroot quietly reflects on times they spent with someone they loved dearly, but that person is no longer. DeGroot, instead, lies in an empty bed, their loneliness being their paralysis.
“Be honest darling do you think of me
and all this stupid stuff?
It’s been a few days since I heard from you –
So do I feel the love?
The silence always shakes me from my sleep
and I can’t get it off
I wanna touch you on your golden arm –
So do I feel the love?”
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